Bishop Accountability

Egan Resources – January 2002

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Pope Orders Tribunals for Pedophile Cases

By Maki Becker with News Wire Services
(NY) Daily News
January 9, 2002

The Pope has quietly issued new rules on pedophile priests, directing Catholic churches to put accused clergymen on trial in secret church tribunals.

In a letter sent out to Catholic bishops and heads of religious orders, papal aide Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger outlined Pope John Paul's new rules, making it clear that if a church leader becomes aware of "even a hint" of sexual misconduct involving a child, "he must open an investigation and inform the [Rome] Congregation."

Ratzinger wrote that pedophile cases were subject to pontifical secrecy and that only priests should handle such cases.

He also said victims must make their accusations within 10 years after turning 18.

The letter did not mention whether church leaders should inform civil authorities, like the police, if a priest is discovered in a sexual crime or found guilty in a church trial.

In the last decade, the Catholic Church has been plagued with scandals involving allegations of priests sexually abusing minors. It has come under attack for trying to keep such accusations quiet.

The scandals have not only been extremely embarrassing, but have proved expensive as well. Two years ago, a jury found the Diocese of Dallas had concealed a priest's sexual abuse of boys and awarded the victims $119.6 million in damages.

Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, declined to comment on the new rules, saying he had not read the Pope's directives.

But he pointed out that Edward Cardinal Egan has put into place his own policies about sexual misconduct with children, including mandatory background checks on anyone working in an archdiocesan facility. Under archdiocese rules, priests who engage in sexual misconduct can seek professional help at the expense of the church.


Bishop Accountability © 2003